Back in the race! Taty Castellanos' four-goal outburst leads NYCFC rout after CCL heartbreak

Welcome to the Golden Boot presented by Audi race, Taty Castellanos.

It took the New York City FC talisman just 80 minutes on Sunday to go from goalless in MLS play this year to one off the league lead. 

That's what a club-record four-goal outburst in a 6-0 rout of Real Salt Lake at Yankee Stadium does for Castellanos, who won the Golden Boot last year with 19 goals.

“I'm very happy for him. He works so hard every single day. You have to appreciate a striker like this,” midfielder Alfredo Morales said. “He gives everything, his pressure is essential for us, especially with Maxi \[Moralez\] or Santi \[Rodriguez], whoever plays the No. 10. To score four goals, I think is not bad. He has four goals now and I think he has to go for the Golden Boot again.”

NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said the weight of the world was on Castellanos’ shoulders to start the 2022 season. Transfer rumors swirled, travel while competing on two fronts intensified and when goals didn’t immediately materialize in MLS play, the ‘what happened with Taty?’ questions started to be asked.

“All these kinds of things over time [are] too much,” Deila said.

But Deila said he's seen a change in Castellanos this week ahead of the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals against the Seattle Sounders and Sunday’s league match against RSL.

“Then you come into a period where you start to see the real aggression in his play and calmness and the last week before the Seattle game, I saw a totally different Taty again,” Deila said. “He scores in training all the time. And then I just know everything will come. He was really good against Seattle and I’m not very surprised today that he scored four goals. He’s a top, top player and he’s now back to being balanced mentally and physically.”

Castellanos and NYCFC prioritized CCL early in the season. And while bitterly disappointed at being ousted by the Sounders, Castellanos said there was “no excuse” to turn the page and do so quickly.

“I feel happy first and foremost for the team and the guys in the locker room. And then on the personal level, just happy to be able to get on the scoresheet and get back into the race and in the running for the Golden Boot,” Castellanos said through a translator. “Obviously our focus has been Champions League. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. So now we turned our focus to the league and kind of looking forward and excited for these matches.”

Castellanos certainly wasted no time to open his account Sunday with a 9th-minute headed goal. He added penalty kicks on either side of halftime for his second career MLS hat trick — the first NYCFC player to do so — and capped a historic afternoon with his fourth goal, capitalizing on a poor attempted clearance by RSL goalkeeper Zac McMath.

“Obviously, it's going to be difficult to take the sting away, but as I mentioned before, it's just about switching that mentality and we were able to do that immediately with the 6-0 win,” Castellanos said. “Obviously, the pain will still be there, but now we're just focused fully on the league, just studying our rivals, getting ready for the game each week, and hopefully a lot more victories can come.”